This Celebrity Stylist Dares Greatly on the Daily
Celebrities, Twitter, how to be kickass without compromise—stylist Karla Welch tells all.
May 1, 2018
The Vancouver International Auto Show rolled through the convention centre last month, and with it came luxury supercars, eco-friendly hybrids and cutting-edge concept cars. Among the polished hubcaps and exposed engines—and a lot of suit-jacketed men with gelled hair—was Karla Welch, celebrity stylist and former Vancouverite, who was in town to talk about the fashion-inspired Cadillac Escala concept car. We caught up with the style savant, who btw once outfitted Oprah (you heard it here first, folks, I shook hands with a woman who has shaken hands with Oprah), and questioned her on everything from luxury design to human rights.
Just a Small Town Girl
Originally from Powell River, Welch moved to Vancouver to study at UBC and ended up having a City Guide-worthy experience: she lived on Main Street and then became a sommelier at Vij’s (she even regularly flipped through the pages of this magazine). As her fashion career snowballed, she moved to L.A., but Vancouver has always had a special place in her heart. Now, she’s a regular globetrotter (“I’ve been on six planes this week,” she mentions offhand) and has fangirl-worthy clients like Michelle Williams, Oprah, Zooey Deschanel, Oprah, Bradley Cooper—did I say Oprah?
Mixing Business with…Politics?
If you think being around the glamour and glitz of celebrity has somehow changed Welch’s character or values, you’d be right—but not in the way you might guess. Her Twitter feed is teeming with demands for gun control, anti-racism, affordable living and good ol’ human rights; she’s using her platform, and not just in heels. Does tweeting and retweeting all this political content (Humans need rights? Gasp!) make her nervous? Not one bit: “I’m just not afraid of it,” says Welch. “I think I would be so bored if I was only posting pictures of me dressing celebrities. Because that’s my job, sure, but my job is bigger than that—as a human and as an upstanding member of society—and that’s more important to me.”
The self-designated serial retweeter is an advocate in the fashion world, too: she thinks the movement away from fur is awesome and champions brands like Levi’s for working to save water in their manufacturing processes. So far, her activism has been rewarded more than penalized. “I actually think my politics have been great for business, because brands that have similar beliefs to me aren’t afraid of working with me,” she says. “And same for me: I don’t want to work with anyone who doesn’t stand for something.”
Telling It Like It Is
When it comes to styling celebrities, Welch’s no-nonsense attitude makes clients trust her almost instantly. She says she doesn’t get starstruck since she knows what’s “behind the curtain,” but that doesn’t mean she hides her admiration. “If I love someone’s work, I love their work, and I’m going to tell them,” she says, “but like, if I see someone and I love their shirt I’m going to tell them.” Welch basically likens telling Lady Gaga you like her music to telling your BFF you think her shoes are cool—and why not? The stylist’s generous spirit and sincerity are what make her great at what she does. “I’m sincere in my love for something, and I’m also sincere when I’m, like, ‘ugh take it off,'” she laughs.
Welch attributes a lot of her beliefs to growing up in Canada, and particularly to the small-town vibes of Powell River. “I didn’t grow up in this rarified world,” she observes, and she doesn’t believe that only the famous, privileged or powerful should have a voice. “The idea that this has to be exclusive is ridiculous to me—I don’t want to be limited,” she says. Being unlimited—in voice, in style and even in concept cars—is an idea that never fails to get Welch pumped. She leads hair and makeup teams, chats with celebrities, and bolsters brands with kickass confidence and an unwillingness to compromise: “I totally have it in me—it’s who I am.”